x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Minimum payments on credit cards lead to bloated charges

Our consumer advocate addresses readers' questions on high interest and charges levied on a credit card, a stalled job offer and cancelling a visa

Credit card charges are cause for concern. Silvia Razgova / The National
Credit card charges are cause for concern. Silvia Razgova / The National

I have a Standard Chartered credit card with a balance of Dh3,000. Due to my pregnancy and not having a job for some time, we have paid a very minimal amount every month. We have also faced a lot of financial problems. Now I have decided to close the card and pay the balance off. I paid Dh3,000 via the ATM and called the bank to ask about the balance. To my surprise, the bank representative called me back and informed me that my balance payable is Dh20,084. Please advise me on how can I settle such a big amount. I can only afford to pay for the principal amount as I have less salary and am supporting my son. - LG Dubai

I referred the matter to Standard Chartered, which has been discussing the issue with LG. A spokesperson for the bank said: "Our customer-care unit has finally managed to get in touch with the customer and agreed with her on a settlement plan, which the customer has agreed to settle on the 22nd of November. We would like to thank The National newspaper for bringing this issue to our attention." The bank explained that the charges levied on her card were due to the non-settlement of an outstanding balance since 2008. This led to an accumulation of interest and service charges, which have been explained to LG. LG confirmed that she has agreed to a settlement amount with the bank and that it is lower than initially advised.

I left the UAE last June and my visa was cancelled by my employer. I was recently offered another job in the UAE, but when my prospective employer went to the immigration department to get me an entry permit, they were told that I already had a valid visa. I'm not sure how this is possible. When I called immigration, they told me that I would have to visit them in person and that they could not tell me who the sponsor on my visa was over the phone. I am currently in New York. I left my account with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank open when I left the UAE in June and I'm wondering if that is what's causing the problem. Was I required to cancel the account when my visa was cancelled? RM New York

There should be no issue with someone keeping a bank account in the UAE, even if they are not a resident. However, the bank will require updated contact details and will most likely cancel any linked credit cards. This should not have any bearing on the visa situation unless the account holder had unpaid debts and the bank had opened a police case against them, which is not the case here. It sounds as if the previous employer had not cancelled the visa properly or there was an error in the system. Either way, the company PRO should be able to sort that out quite quickly.

I had an interview with a company and they then told me to go home to Pakistan. They said they will send me an offer letter and also a visa. They have taken all scanned copies of all documents and also my original degree certificate for verification. After five months of waiting, they have not sent me my visa, although they have sent me an offer letter and I returned it to them after signing. The company is just saying that it is in process. I have checked my status on the Ministry of Labour website, which shows that they have just paid the bank fee and not processed it further. What can I do? NZ Pakistan

NZ needs to contact the potential employer and ask them when he will be starting the job. There could be many reasons for the delay, but he will not find out unless he asks them. If the employer has paid the fees, then that implies that they wish to proceed. He could also contact the Ministry of Labour to find out if a specific item is holding up the visa application as it may be something that he can assist with.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com